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WEST GOSHEN — The A.P. Government students will be learning out of a new textbook next year in the West Chester high schools.
“American Government and Politics Today,” the 2015-2016 edition, by Lynne Ford, Barbara Bardes, Steffen Schmidt and Mack Shelley, II, was approved by the school board Monday night.
But it was by an 8-1 vote as Maureen Snook disagreed with some of the sections of the textbook.
“(I) leafed through the AP Government book and, realizing that government and politics is an ever-changing landscape, but (there is) just one thing,” she said to the board. “(There’s a section of) the status of gay and lesbians, which is certainly a critical point. … But what I’m concerned about, and not sure how it plays through in this book, is that the courts are increasingly overturning state constitutions, state laws and popular referendum.”
The section of “The Rights and Status of Gays and Lesbians” is under the “Civil Rights” chapter of the textbook.
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That section is then broken down more, with one part discussing the defense of the Marriage Act and state recognition of gay marriages.
“Just one example is voters in 32 of 35 states supported the conjugal meaning of marriage, with the traditional understanding of being between a man and a woman,” Snook said. “In 35 states, same-sex marriages can be licensed. … My hope would be in this case, that our teachers will provide the perspective that we are in a totally new area of judicial activism and one never knows from day-to-day how one person — one judge — might overturn a popular referendum or a state law or even federal law that had overwhelming support.
“Our students could be well served to know that current jurisprudence does allow one person to overturn a definitive rule and the rightful political authority of people.”
Sue Tiernan, board vice president, brought the textbook — along with two others — to the table for the board to approve as she chairs the Education Committee.
“The books have been vetted thoroughly by the teachers who are using them,” she said to the board. “Then we had two meetings where there was discussion among the 12 people involved required for the committee to elect a book for adoption.”
“There should be an opportunity for the traditional view to be expressed with the same length as Queen Latifah,” Snook said. “There should be a balanced view of what the traditional definition of marriage has been for the millennial. We will have to depend heavily on our teachers to make sure that balanced view is presented, particularly given that the courts have overturned, frequently, duly passed laws and popular referendum.”
Board member Joyce Chester, who also serves on the Education Committee, brought up books she had to learn from as a student.
“Speaking on fair and balanced views as a girl growing up, the history books that I studied had all the focus on the framers of the Constitution,” she said. “It did not present a fair and balanced view of our history as it actually stood — it presented a point-of-view. I am very interested in the facts of the facts of what happened in this country. I am interested in our students understanding that there is more than one view and more than one perspective.
“It is critical that our students learn the value of the wonderfully rich, colorful and diverse opportunity that we have and the information that we have available.”
Chester made sure to vote “very much yes” for approval of the book.
On the inside cover of the textbook, it has a map of the United States color-coded for LGBT rights.
As part of the explanation, the textbook states: “Same-sex marriage had been a topic of conversation for most states in the past decade and the conversation is bound to continue. For that reason, the map is highly dynamic and changing very quickly.”
Tiernan felt the class the textbook is being used for allows for critical and open thinking.
“It’s an A.P. Government course and the students are encouraged to reflect on the fact that so many things have changed in the courts and all over the country,” she said. “I don’t think our teachers encourage our students to take one side or the other to see one side is right or wrong. They are encouraged to see that things have changed. This is the foundation of our jurisprudence and our country. I feel confident that our teachers, from hearing the discussions that went on in our committee meetings, are well able to handle this and are giving students opportunities to see all sides of issues.”